We lost a true American hero last weekend. My longtime friend, Greg "Spanky" Barber (LTC retired) was killed along with his Air Force Academy cadet son Tim in a midair collision in their family Luscombe New Years Eve.
Spanky was a great American in every sense of the word. Growing up on a farm he decided early in life exactly what he wanted to do, and become.
He would succeed 100% of his aspirations. From his early days in the USAF instructing in the T38 to his final years as a U2 Pilot flying clandestine, high threat missions around the world, Spanky had seen it all from the highest vantage point on Earth.
When both of us were stationed in VA in the mid 1990's, we took turns helping each other work on their respective machines, I with my RV4, Spanky with his prized Luscombe. Additionally, his home became my second home and family
influencing me (along with everyone else he met) in a highly positive way.
The Luscombe was always busy, seemingly until the very end last weekend with a non-stop list of Young Eagles, friends and family Spanky had introduced to aviation. Fittingly, he was the first passenger in my RV4 once I had completed the 50 hour test phase. Despite his small stature and humble ways, a great aviator lurked underneath. When I passed the controls of the RV4 to Spanky I knew immediately I was in the presence of greatness. Many years later my wife and I would have the honor of delivering the Luscombe to TX from CA when he battled cancer. Spanky would not only beat the cancer, but get his medical back and continue encouraging future aviators, "one ride at a time".
In retirement Spanky would continue his lifelong passion begun in the AF in promoting Scouting. His Scoutmaster leadership and amazing impact on the community was evident when we visited his widow at their farm yesterday. A vigil of volunteers ranging from police to firefighters to pastors, USAF officers and numerous young people, all volunteering to protect the property from press and paparazzi. Spanky's encouragement would lead to 3 of his 4 children accepted to the AF Academy, his 4th in the process of applying. Hundreds of young people involved in positive activities and many more introduced to aviation. My MAF missionary pilot friend Chad whom Spanky gave numerous Luscombe rides saying it best, "Greg defined the word encouragement, he brightened up any room he entered and left you with a big smile".
Spanky not only flew high but set the "how to live life bar"
even higher, something we can all aspire to achieve.
He will be sorely missed...